Written by Sydney Dickson

I went to the conference to increase my professional development skills, network with individuals practicing in my field and to learn more about the Native American culture. My trip was funded through a mini-grant proposal called the “Land Use Change Design Competition” that I submitted last school year. One requirement of the proposal’s budget was funding for me to present at the national conference, where I gave a presentation showcasing the proposal and the University of Arkansas AISES chapter’s progress so far. The project was designed to introduce Native American students to opportunities in the geo-technical fields through hands-on learning. The UA AISES chapter partnered with Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah, Oklahoma to do just that.

The Sequoyah AISES chapter divided into five teams and chose a city to research. Each team was assigned two UA engineering mentors as a resource for questions concerning their project or college life in general. The teams looked into a specific city’s land use change over time and learned how growth can both positively and negatively affect a region. The students learned that land use change has a direct effect on the flora and fauna of a particular area, which can provide obstacles for communities that rely on subsistence hunting, fishing and farming.

The theme for the conference was “Adaptability,” which I definitely learned to do.  I made the mistake of taking my fashionable coat and leaving my warmest coat in Fayetteville. In Alaska, the temperature was 28 degrees Fahrenheit, but the 15 mile per hour winds brought it down to a chilling 17 degrees. I adapted by layering each outfit and learned my lesson that no cute coat can possibly be cute enough to make up for constantly shivering. Despite the temperature, I enjoyed my time in Alaska. I also enjoyed working with the students at Sequoyah High School.

Last Saturday, the students traveled to the U of A to present their knowledge in a pamphlet and give a presentation. While the high school students were on campus, they took a tour of facilities, watched presentations and interacted more with the UA AISES students. The students were also recognized for their hard work at an awards banquet. Now that the project is complete and the conference is over, I am looking forward to my next national conference with the Society of Women Engineers in Houston this month.